Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Selling out is hard to do

Or, if you're the provincial government, apparently it's quite easy.

Yes, it would appear that the new equalization formula which has been variously decried as scandalous, a betrayal, valueless, and an overall insult to Newfoundland and Labrador has been signed by the government. Even the Fighting Newfoundlander must throw in the towel on some matches, and certainly this was a battle where the odds weren't in the province's favour. Despite the Premier promising just a short while ago that he was ready for a "new round of fighting," it looks like we'll all be going home, disappointed and sober, after the first round.

To some, this might look like a capitulation of Six Day War proportions; to others it'll resemble more of a Chamberlain-like compromise. In actuality, it's more of the latter; despite very strong implications and overtones of "never give in, never surrender" in the Premier's rhetoric since March, he avoided making any sort of definite statement a la Stephenville Mill with regards to the adoption of the equalisation formula. In Williams' own words, this is a sell out.

Politics, of course, is all about conflict, compromise, and the occasional flip-flop. This is nothing new, and this sort of quietly changing the course is a staple of almost every time a government has ever loudly fought a battle it couldn't win.

However, it's the fact that this is nothing new that's precisely the problem. The Premier and his government have built themselves up as the Fighting Newfoundlanders, eschewing the old ways of doing politics that have gotten the province so far in the hole and let our resources be exploited to the brink of no return; this is a Premier that promised to "stay the course" on getting our fair share and doing not only what is best, but what is right for the people of this province; above all, this is a Premier and a government that have proclaimed, on a large number of occasions, that there will be no more giveaways. And, as they should rightly do for that sort of representation, the province gave this government a positively monolithic mandate.

What we've got now, today, with the signing of the new equalisation formula, is a de facto admission that the new politics and new hope for change promised by the Premier was in fact simply rhetoric. A Fighting Newfoundlander who gives up when the going gets rough; a captain who is only steady at the wheel in calm weather, and who will avoid the risks of uncharted waters in exchange for a smooth, if rather lackluster, ride; a sudden switch to pragmatism from principle because it's "what's best for the province."

The actual mechanics and costs vs. benefits of this deal are essentially irrelevant (although it bears repeating that both the government and the economists who've looked at it have dismissed its worth) at this point, because ultimately what this deal means to the people of this province is that we're just getting more of the "politics of mediocrity" that the Tories vowed to do away with.

And unfortunately, that means that the credibility of the Leviathan we elected is the only joke in this entire entry.